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Need help deciding between a few components.

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September 30, 2007 7:14:41 AM

I'm planning to spend anywhere from 1500-2500 on a complete new system. I've done a lot of research over the past month but still have a lot of questions.
It's being built for gaming, but I also will be using this for photoshop, 3D modeling, and watching video/playing music.

1. CPU. I want either the AMD FX or the AMD X2, but I'm not sure which one would be better for me. I hear the FX is better for gaming, but the X2 would allow me to run multiple programs easily without slowdown.

2. 8800 GTX or Ultra? Not sure. I can afford the Ultra, but is it worth it? The reported heat problems of the ultra also worried me. Watercooling is not off the table, but I wasn't planning on it. I'd prefer to use the stock cooling for everything.
I was going to get just one for now to save on money, with the possibility a couple years from now getting a second one cheap to enable SLI (unless I decide to buy a new one for better direct x support).

3. For the gaming soundcard, I was thinking the Soundblaster 7.1 X-XFI extreme would be best. Is that correct?

4. Network card. Is this necessary for improved online gaming performance? If so, should I go with the Killer network card, or something else entirely?

5. The motherboard is what I'm most lost on. There is an infinite number of choices. The only requirement I have is that it's got to be full tower sized, support SLI, and have lots of PCI slots for my other cards. When it comes to the chipset I was going to go with Nforce because it seems that is the best.

6. Vista or XP? I have XP pro right now. I've heard a lot of horror stories about Vista so I was going to avoid it. It seems I'll have to eventually get Vista anyways to play direct X games.

7. RAM. 3 gigs or 4? I can afford four, but I've been told that windows XP doesn't recognize more than 3 gigs anyway. I could potentially get four in anticipation of eventually upgrading to Vista.
What RAM speed should I aim for, for gaming? What are the best brands?

8. Powersupply. I have no clue what to get here. I don't even know how much wattage I'll need for all this. But I do know that it has to support SLI.
I want a reliable brand that won't give me any problems.

9. The case and cooling. I haven't settled on a case yet. I want something that gives maximum cooling performance, and don't care about looks. I've considered watercooling, but I'm worried that I might screw up something in the installation of it.

10. I've already got a hard-drive and DVD drive that I will re-use.


Any help sorting this stuff out would be appreciated.

More about : deciding components

September 30, 2007 8:34:55 AM

To answer the ones that I can...

3. Why do you need a sound card? Is it really worth the extra money?

4. You only need a network card if you need a wireless connection. The mentioned model is an egregious waste of money.

7. It would be better to just get four gigabytes now, I think, so you don't have to worry later.

8. Seasonic has rather expensive supplies, but are extremely quiet and efficient. You want to look for +80-85% efficiency supplies, as these tend to be of better quality. The +12V rails are important when looking, too. If you buy a quality supply, don't worry about anything but wattage, since the +12V rails will be sufficient.

For wattage, I would go 650-700, but you might want to check that with others.

September 30, 2007 9:50:08 AM

The FX series is dead and the X2's (AMD X2 6000+) falls short of the Intel dual/quad cores. The Ultra's are just overclocked GTX's, buy an 8800GTX and overclock it yourself. The 680is are the best mobo that support SLI.
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September 30, 2007 10:18:38 AM

Quote:

3. Why do you need a sound card? Is it really worth the extra money?


Yes, it does make a difference for gaming.

Quote:
4. You only need a network card if you need a wireless connection. The mentioned model is an egregious waste of money.


I read that a network card will take some burden off the processor or motherboard (forget which) and can result in better ping for online games.
Is there no truth to that, or do you think the benefit is just too small to justify the expense?

Quote:
The FX series is dead


Can you elaborate?

Quote:
and the X2's (AMD X2 6000+) falls short of the Intel dual/quad cores.

I had a friend tell me just the opposite; That the AMD X2 is superior to the Intel dual cores except if you get one of the new extremes (which is way beyond my desired price range at around $1000).

Quote:
The Ultra's are just overclocked GTX's, buy an 8800GTX and overclock it yourself


I'll get the GTX then, but I won't be overclocking it. I never trusted myself to properly overclock something, and I don't want to deal with any problems of unreliability, overheating, or having the component break down on me.
September 30, 2007 2:48:10 PM

Currently Intel dominates the CPU market in $100 and above range.
2.6Ghz Core 2 Duo E6750 is on average %15 faster than the 3.0Ghz X2 6000, Intel being only $20 more.
http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/intel/showdoc.aspx...

Forget SLI, it's not practical at all. Just go with a single fast card. I'd suggest avoiding Vista before any service packs are available, go with XP. $1500-2000 is more than enough to build a very nice gaming rig. I'd suggest going with the following components, all of them are great.

Case. Glowy? Antec Nine hundred. Not? LIAN LI PC-A12 $120 or Antec Performance One P180B $120

MB. Abit IP35 Pro, just a great board in all aspects. $165

CPU. E6750 $192

RAM. Special edition Crucial Ballistix: $75
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Video. EVGA 8800 GTX (unpack it carefully and don't lose anything, chances are you'll be using the step up program later on http://evga.com/stepup/default.asp?switch=3) $510

PSU. Corsair 620HX, top tier PSU, extremely reliable, powerful, quiet. $146
http://www.zipzoomfly.com/jsp/ProductDetail.jsp?Product...

Audio. X-Fi XtremeGamer Fatal1ty. $86 (ar)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

That totals to around $1300 after rebates for a very nice system.
Good luck.

September 30, 2007 3:08:05 PM

Regarding the PSU, go for the one Dior suggested. It's more than enough and that PSU has a good reputation.

Regarding the CPU, I would probably go for the Intel Duo. However, I'm sure the AMD X2 will also do the job and is equally or slightly less efficient.

I've always liked ASUS as my choice of motherboard. But, all the other known brands are also great! Just my preference...
September 30, 2007 7:42:20 PM

Quote:
I read that a network card will take some burden off the processor or motherboard (forget which) and can result in better ping for online games.
Is there no truth to that, or do you think the benefit is just too small to justify the expense?


It isn't enough improvement to justify the expense. You should only get an add-in network card if you are going to need wireless internet.
September 30, 2007 8:44:15 PM

1) I second the recommendations for the C2D processors. The E6750 or E6850 would be a fine choice for your budget.

2) The VGA card is by far the most critical component in a gaming machine. A single 8800GTX should be able to run anything well. Avoid SLI, it's expensive, hot, complicated, and improves your results by not so much. If it ever seems that the 8800GTX is unable to satisfy you, sell it on e-bay and get the next super card from NVIDIA which is supposed to launch by Christmas.

3) Sound card is not worth it unless you are a very picky audiophile and can tell the difference. The cpu usage benefit is miniscule. Onboard sound is very good these days. If you think you need a sound card, you can always add it later.

4) Modern mobo's come with integrated lan, a separate card is not needed, and any cpu performance difference would not be noticeable. Invest, instead in a gaming router which will prioritize gaming traffic.

5) For the motherboard, look at the P35 boards. They are mature and stable. Don't pay extra for a SLI board unless a single 8800GTX won't do the job. Spend the extra money upgrading to a E6850.

6) I have no problem with Vista. Most problems came from upgrades that included obsolete devices. On a current build, you wiill not have a driver problem with mainstream devices. Microsoft has no incentive to develop XP, and you will probably have to upgrade sometime in the future. XP I would just start out with Vista home premium-64 bit.

7) Get 4gb of ram of the same type of DDR2-800 from a quality vendor. It can't hurt, and 3gb will not cost much less. Vista will use the extra ram to improve performance. Even XP will see 3.3gb which is a plus. Don't pay extra for ultra speed, the improvement will be marginal(2-4%?) in real world application performance.

8) Look at the PC Power and Cooling silencer610 for $119.99 direct from them. It has 49a on a single 12v rail and is sli certified.

9) For a case, check that the 8800GTX will fit, it is about 1.5" longer than most cards. The Antec 900 is a good unit with lots of slow speed fans. I would get a good aftermarket cpu cooler. The best of them will equal water cooling. The best these days seems to be the thermalright extreme ultra 120.

---good luck---
September 30, 2007 10:54:20 PM

Thanks to everyone for all the feedback so far, it's been very helpful.

Quote:
3) Sound card is not worth it unless you are a very picky audiophile and can tell the difference. The cpu usage benefit is miniscule. Onboard sound is very good these days. If you think you need a sound card, you can always add it later.


But would onboard sound support game features like EAX?

I do have an ear for high quality sound. I can notice the difference in sound quality between a 192kbps MP3 file and a 320kbps.

I will also be using this computer for making music, so I'm not sure if that would be an important factor in getting a soundcard.
October 1, 2007 7:36:42 AM

You need a better cooler than the stock Intel to OC the processor. The graphics card is really simple and does not need an after market cooler.
October 1, 2007 12:52:55 PM

Here's a few answers to points for you:

1. CPU. I want either the AMD FX or the AMD X2, but I'm not sure which one would be better for me. I hear the FX is better for gaming, but the X2 would allow me to run multiple programs easily without slowdown.

Don't bother with the FX unless you are loaded - they are normally overpriced for the performance increase you get. You definitely should get a dual-core (or quad-core) processor, as current and future games support dual cores, plus you can multi-task a lot more pleasantly in Windows.

2. 8800 GTX or Ultra? Not sure. I can afford the Ultra, but is it worth it? The reported heat problems of the ultra also worried me. Watercooling is not off the table, but I wasn't planning on it. I'd prefer to use the stock cooling for everything.
I was going to get just one for now to save on money, with the possibility a couple years from now getting a second one cheap to enable SLI (unless I decide to buy a new one for better direct x support).

The Ultra is over-priced for the money in my opinion.

3. For the gaming soundcard, I was thinking the Soundblaster 7.1 X-XFI extreme would be best. Is that correct?

Yes, this is an excellent sound card.

4. Network card. Is this necessary for improved online gaming performance? If so, should I go with the Killer network card, or something else entirely?

All mobos should come with Gigabit ethernet so you don't need this (check the specs, though).

6. Vista or XP? I have XP pro right now. I've heard a lot of horror stories about Vista so I was going to avoid it. It seems I'll have to eventually get Vista anyways to play direct X games.

Personally I use Vista and it runs perfectly well, and is very nice to use. If you do get Vista, get 2GB RAM at least.

7. RAM. 3 gigs or 4? I can afford four, but I've been told that windows XP doesn't recognize more than 3 gigs anyway. I could potentially get four in anticipation of eventually upgrading to Vista.

You are unlikely to make a great deal of use of more than 2GB now, but you never know and RAM is cheap right now. If you do get 4GB RAM, go for Vista 64 bit - 32 bit Windows will only make about 3GB available to you as you state.

October 1, 2007 9:33:32 PM

Thanks for the help, I ended up buying the following:

Let me know what you think, if I made any mistakes or could have made better decisions on some things...


CPU Core 2 Duo E6850
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

EVGA GeForce 8800 GTX:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

Motherboard, EVGA LGA 775 NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI ATX Intel:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
I narrowed down the choices to get this chipset and socket, then chose this one because it was so exceptionally well rated, had plenty of PCI slots, and as a bonus I figure it can't hurt having both the motherboard and GPU be of the same brand.

BFG Tech PhysX processor:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
I forgot to list this originally, but I want to get one because I play several games that support it, and friends who have it say it makes a worthwhile visual difference in games that support it.

Corsair 620W power supply:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

Creative Soundblaster X-FI Platinum Fatal1ty:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
More expensive than the standard Fatal1ty, but I think the front plate with all the hookup options might prove useful for creating and recording music.

Thermaltake Armor Series Case:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
I got all aluminum for better heat removal. I went for this one specifically because it came with a lot of fans but most importantly had a fan port on the top of the case, also because I trust the Thermaltake name for this kind of stuff.

CPU Fan, ZALMAN 92mm:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1683...
I picked this because it was extremely high rated for my CPU block, and looking at the design it appears to be very efficient at removing heat. My second choice was a high rated ZALMAN 120mm fan, mainly because it promised to run silent and cool at the same time, but it was rated lower for being too big, having installation troubles, and in some cases breaking down.

Crucial DDR2 800, 4GB worth:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...

Artic Silver 5 Thermal Compound:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1683...
Not sure if this was necessary, but I used it last time and it seems to work well.

I also got a new mouse, Logitech G5:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
The mouse I'm using right now, the original microsoft optical Intellimouse Explorer, is six years old.

And new keyboard, the TimberWolf:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
They sold Wolf keyboards that were just the lefthand side round bit for gaming. I originally wanted that because it would save space when gaming, but then I wondered would I be able to have a normal keyboard function and still use that thing on top of it for games? So I just with the one that had both combined, but unfortunately this route doesn't save any desktop space for me to put down the joystick.



As for new monitor (my current one is a 19inch CRT that is going on six years old), I bought this:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
I was looking for an LCD that combines latency for gaming with a large screen. I also needed something that had good quality picture for art on the computer and movies.
It's a brand I've never heard of, but it got very good reviews, and it is the only 24 inch that offers a 2ms response time. If I got any larger the response time would go down to 5ms.
I'm just worried at the moment that the specs on paper might not live up to what it looks like in practice.






October 2, 2007 4:16:40 AM

Save your money and buy the non-overclocked version of the 8800GTX. You can OC it yourself very easy if you want to, you won't see much difference between the OC'ed or the non-OC version.
October 2, 2007 11:04:28 PM

He has already bought it :) 

Mostly good purchases I'd say, except that PHysX card ...
!